By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Brotherless Love For The Bruthas
“I can play anywhere, first, third, leftfield, anywhere but Philadelphia.”
- Dick Allen
PHILADELPHIA – As Philadelphia basks in the afterglow of winning the 2008 World Series, a huge part of the success of these 2008 Philadelphia Phillies rides on the legs and glove of shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the bat of first baseman Ryan Howard. One sets the table; the other cleans it.
Life is good for the two Black superstars – the only two on the Phillies active roster. Oh, so you didn’t notice?
Let’s explore why the Black Athlete in Philadelphia has not been received with the same admiration as those with less melanin and in some cases much less talent.
The psychological scars left upon Black athletes that have come through Philadelphia are deep. The most recognizable of them is Dick (“don’t call me Richie”) Allen.
Allen was the first Black major league star for the Philadelphia Phillies, called up from the team’s Arkansas minor league affiliate in Little Rock in 1963; Allen would feel the sting of racism and Jim Crow in the southwestern United States.
Being one of the local team’s first Black players, Allen was received at most of his games with racial protests that called for him to “Go back North.” Eventually, Allen would head north after being called up by the Phillies for the 1964 season.
To the readers who need a barometer on Allen’s talent in terms of power in Phillies history, he’s the bridge between Chuck Klein and Mike Schmidt.
Allen’s first season in the majors would end in Rookie of the Year honors, he would lead the league in runs (125), triples (13), extra base hits (80), and total bases (352); he finished in the top five in batting average (.318) slugging pct. (.557), hits (201), and doubles (28).
However, all wasn’t sweet for the right handed slugger, he would lead the majors with 41 errors while playing third base for the first time. More importantly, 1964 was the season of one of the greatest collapses in baseball history as the Phillies blew a 6 Â½ game lead with 12 games to play.
They would lose 10 in a row losing the division by one game.
Allen hit .438 with 5 doubles, 2 triple, 3 home runs and 11 RBI in those last two weeks but for some reason was labeled as one of the scapegoats in the monumental collapse.
Troubles for Allen in Philadelphia were just beginning. I’m not sure where Allen’s troubles began in Philadelphia; but it got ugly in a hurry.
Allen quickly became a lightning rod for controversy in Philadelphia, some of his behavior was self-inflicted (late for meetings and games), but for the most part Allen was the victim of good ‘ol fashioned racism.
Ice, trash, fruit and batteries were some of the items that were hurled in Allen’s direction. But you’ll only hear how Philadelphia fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus.
Along with physical trash came verbal abuse, racial epithets and obscenities. It got to the point where Allen would wear his batting helmet for protection while playing the field.
Racism came from all directions at Allen, of all places where he should’ve received the most support; the locker room, even there Allen became the target of “men” caught up in the old way of thinking.
The famous brawl with known clubhouse racist Frank Thomas who hit Allen on the shoulder with a bat. Allen in Thomas’ defense begged for him not to be put on waivers and manager Gene Mauch asked that the incident not be leaked to the press.
Well of course it was leaked and only one side was heard, and it wasn’t Dick Allen’s. After that it all went south between Allen and the fans, who apparently had problem with Allen defending himself.
It would all end for Allen with a trade to the St.Lous Cardinals, but the venom reserved for Black Athletes in Philadelphia was just brewing.
“I got pulled over when I was behind the wheel of a Porshe in Philly once for what we call ‘DWB’ Driving While Black.”
- Charles Barkley
“I’m a 90′s Nigger.” – Charles Barkley
In this age of soundbytes and postgame interviews Charles Barkley was king. Drafted by the 76ers in 1984. His mouth caused as much havoc in the press than his play on the court. Barkley for the most part is still beloved in Philadelphia but for the chubby kid from Leeds, Alabama, it didn’t take long for him to notice much of the racism he experienced in the deep south.
Whether it was the spitting incident during a game in New Jersey or punching a guy out at a bar because he had to much liquid courage, Barkley was more bully than victim in the eyes of the press and many of the fans.
What they didn’t know was that Barkley was anything but silent. Put a mic in front of Charles and you’re going to get two things as a White reporter or a brutha teetering on the edge; the bejesus scared out of you and the truth.
America saw Barkley as threatening, with the emergence of Public Enemy’s self-awareness movement through music and Spike Lee’s view of the Black struggle on the big screen, Barkley had the sports world covered.
Sir Charles blazed a path that Michael Jordan was afraid to go down and one that Tiger Woods will not touch. Fine after fine, suspension after suspension Barkley could not be silenced.
For every person that loved Charles, there were 10 that, “Didn’t want this kind of guy in Philadelphia.” The kind of guy that was quick to point out that Dave Hoppen was kept on the 76ers roster because Philadelphia wasn’t ready for an all-Black team.
The kind of guy that handed out $100 bills to the homeless, Black and White. And finally, the kind of guy that urged us to raise our own children and not put that onus on athletes, entertainers or anyone else that isn’t there to tuck them in at night.
Charles urged America to look itself in the mirror, apparently, it’s still trying to make out the image looking back at them.
No athlete carried the banner for the now generation the way Allen Iverson has; cornrows, baggy clothing with more ice than most freezers. Iverson is a symbol of the struggle of the Black youth in America seeking individuality and acceptance.
Iverson was met head on with the stigma of being a “gangsta” who ran with a “posse”, stayed out til the week hours of the morning unable to make team practices and meetings.
Only the latter is accurate.
Iverson, all 5-feet-11 and 165 pounds, was the Philadelphia 76′ers first pick overall in the 1996 Draft guard put a bunch of journeyman castoffs on his shoulders and carried them to the cusp of the NBA title.
In 2002, Iverson was arrested for threatening to kill his cousin and his friend after he went to the home of the cousin looking for his wife the night after they had an argument.
Understand, Iverson was paying rent at the home of the cousin records would show. UniverSoul Circus had nothing on the spectacle the Philadelphia media made this out to be.
For close to a week every media outlet in the city was camped out at the Iverson residence in suburban Philadelphia. Unable to get a view of Iverson, they took the liberty of filming his children playing in the front yard and even peering into the home with a high powered lens through an open curtain.
The only missing item was a white Ford Bronco.
Iverson would be found not guilty on the charges and allowed to resume his “normal” life. But the damage had been done as the city was split in two. Radio personality Howard Eskin, the pied-piper of bigots has had an axe to grind with Iverson since Iverson’s second season in Philly took it upon himself to wage his own war against A.I. starting his own radio lynch mob composed of anyone willing to buy into his rhetoric.
Eskin’s view of the Iverson case split the radio airwaves in half and left me surprised that Iverson even acknowledged the Philadelphia press ever again.
Allen, Barkley and Iverson, three of the most polarizing Black athletes to play in Philadelphia. Outside of their athletic prowess these were men that said what other Black athletes were afraid to say and what Whites didn’t want to hear.
What racist fans in Philadelphia don’t understand is that the fear factor is gone, the days of passiveness are gone. Jackie Robinson isn’t here to take those spikes to the arm anymore to just stand there and bleed.
No disrespect to Mr. Robinson because he didn’t have to do it either, he did to show us another way of combating ignorance.
There have been players like Randall Cunningham and currently Donovan McNabb who are aware of the stigmas placed on them but chose not to go to deep into the matter. Despite my desire for them to address their situations, I realize everyone isn’t equipped for this kind of battle.
On the field, Rollins and Howard will be given a pass for a season or so. However anything off the field will only grease the skids for their imminent departure.
My advice; Tread lightly, but carry a big stick.
Today’s Black athlete are the sons and daughters of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Jim Brown and Curt Flood.
We are the children of the Revolution.